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How long does eviction take in Massachusetts?

I am the landlord. After inspection of the property, it was discovered that the occupants had made many alterations (without obtaining permission) which result in many repairs that are needed. Additionally, the occupants installed bolts on the doors without permission, thus, allowing themselves to lock themselves inside the property. After the inspection took place, the tenant made false allegations about the inspection visit. As per the lease, the tenant had an opportunity to purchase the property, but since they didn't, I listed the property for sale. The term of the lease has now expired, and the tenant is now on at-will monthly basis. Now the tenant has retaliated by refusing to pay rent for the property, therefore we gave 30-day notice, and will likely need to file an eviction. Typically how long does an eviction take to get the occupants out of the property? I need to sell the property, and the occupants are very hostile. The realtors are also now nervous about showing, and even keeping the property listed for fear of the occupants making up false allegations against them. I just want this tenant out of the property since he cannot be trusted to have a landlord/tentant business relationship with. Thanks for your advice.

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The amount of time required to evict a tenant in Massachusetts can vary a great deal, but it almost always takes longer than the landlord anticipates, and is typically measured in months, rather than in weeks or days.  You can read this post regarding the process in MA for evicting tenants.  After the Notice to Quit is properly served, the landlord must wait until the time the tenant has to leave the apartment has expired, 14 or 30 days for example. Then, the landlord can obtain a Summons and Complaint at court and serve the tenant.  He can do this on or before the Monday after the expiration of the notice to quit ("Service Date").  After service,  the Summons and Complaint are filed at court on the following Monday, known as the "Entry Date."  Then the trial will be held the Thursday of the next week.  But if any discovery is filed by either party, a two week extension is allowed and the trial day is scheduled for 24 days from the entry date. 

This confusing time table is spelled out it in detail in many fine books on the subject available at the MA Trial Court Law Libraries.  But in a nutshell, the landlord must remember:  Monday, Monday, Thursday.  That is, if you get the Summons and Complaint served by the Monday after the Notice to Quit expires, then you can file the Summons and Complaint at court the following Monday, on the Entry Date.  And if you meet that deadline, then you might get your trial date on the Thursday of the next week (10 days after the Entry Date), assuming no discovery requests by the tenant.  Note that the landlord can take longer to do any of these steps, but that adds time to the process. 

Assuming the landlord does not skip or mess up any of the required steps (and that the judge does not, as a result, make her start the process over again), the best case scenario (with a fourteen day notice) to quit is roughly 7 weeks from service of the notice to trial, 9 or 10 weeks with a thirty day notice to quit.  Assuming the landlord prevails at trial, and that the tenant is not granted a stay of judgment and execution and does not appeal the judgment, the landlord can than pick up the execution from the court ten days after the entry of judgment and give it to a constable.  After a 48 hour notification and waiting period, the constable can remove the tenant (assuming the tenant has not removed himself voluntarily).

So, you can see that the days and weeks really add up during this process, which is why many landlords seek alternate approaches, such as offering to buy the tenant out of the unit.  I know, it sounds crazy to pay a tenant to move out, but often it is a quicker and cheaper way of getting rid of a problem tenant.

Also, landlords should always try to take advantage of the Housing Court's housing specialists/mediators.  On the trial date, if the landlord and tenant can reach an agreement, called an Agreement for Judgment, it can help the process move along and add predictability.  The landlord can get a payment plan in place and establish a voluntary move-out date.  The Agreement for Judgment is a binding court order.  That means if the tenant does not pay or fails to move out on the agreed upon date, the landlord can ask the judge to enforce the order immediately upon proof of a violation. Landlords should make sure that the Agreement contains a waiver of the tenants right to appeal.

Hope that helps.

Dear Editor,
Thanks so much for the informative reply. As the landlords and owners of the property, it seems as if the tenants have complete control of the property. The tenants have broken the terms of the lease in countless ways, and we need to wait to be in front of a judge, which can take months, to try to get justice. Even with an order from the judge, the tenant can frivoulessly appeal. Thus, the tenant has a hostile takeover of our property and lives there for free?
The lease that we have with the tenant had the term expire already and then it was at will for 4 more months, with our right to sell the property. Is this now not even plausible because the tenant refuses to pay and leaves the property? This is a unit that a buyer would want to live in-it's not something that someone purchases for investment purposes.

As the owner of the property, if we do not pay our mortgage, our credit score is ultimately affected. If a tenant does not pay their rent, is there a way to affect their credit score? There must be some recourse to protect us as the owners of the property. This can't just be bad luck because the tenants understood the law better than us prior to occupying the unit. There must be a way to protect us from people like this.

Unfortunately, there really are no good answers AFTER a bad tenant gets into your property.  These types of tenants are sometimes known as professionals, because they know the laws and how to abuse them.  If the tenant has any money or assets, then you can ultimately attempt to collect the rent.  In many cases, however, such collection efforts prove futile.  There are reporting agencies that landlords can use, both to screen tenants and report problem tenants.  Also, organizations such as the Massachusetts Rental Association offer invaluable support, forms, and information to landlords.  Good luck.

Thanks again,
But one would wonder why anybody living in the state of MA ever buys a home, when you could just find a rental property and end up living there for free, as based on the laws in this state? So, I'm renting now--I could have a hostile takeover of the property, including not paying rent with no consequences, since I still need to pay mortgage for the property the tenant is living in, why should I still pay the large rent where I am now. Is this how it works in MA?

I just don't understand. Our tenant broke the lease in countless ways, including not occupying the property, no written (or verbal for that matter) consent to make alterations, additions, paint, removal of permanent fixtures, refusal to pay rent, etc. These conditions were very clearly stated in the signed lease.
He also made crazy false allegations when we inspected the property.

Because of MA laws, judges can't have integrity to protect us, but rather this shady tenant? This is just our bad luck for not being able to sell our property last year and needing to move? I just don't understand how we, as law abiding ethical people could be punished like this.

A good tenant lawyer can stall an eviction for decades.

You mention that there is a need for repairs, assuming the items that need repairs are code violations not caused by the tenant, the tenant can lawfully withhold rent.

If a landlord tries to evict a tenant for a non fault ground or for non payment of rent, the tenant can file counterclaims and if the tenant prevails on any counterclaim arising from the tenancy such as code violations the tenant will get the judgment of possession even if the tenant owes the landlord money (provided the tenant pays the money ordered by the court by the deadline court ordered).

You mention that there was an inspection, if the eviction or termination of tenancy occurs within 6 months of the date the tenant reported code violations, there is a rebuttable presumption that the eviction is a retaliatory eviction. If the eviction is found to be retaliatory it will not be allowed and the landlord could be ordered to pay the tenant money.

If the tenant prevails on certain counterclaims the landlord could be required to pay the tenant triple damages plus lawyers fees.

Also a tenant can put a lock on the door.

You mention selling the property, if this is a condominium the tenants have additional rights.

Sugggest the landlord offer the tenants cash for keys that is pay the tenant to move out.

I've evicted 2 tenants in my landlord career. One was straight-forward enough. As soon as my attorney served the notice to quit, the tenant started looking for another apartment and moved out within 2 months without further hassle. She did however, trash the apartment but that's another story. That was in Malden, MA - where the court systems isn't as backed up as my 2nd eviction.

The 2nd eviction was a landlord's nightmare. It made me really ponder about quitting this business together because it was expensive and stressful. The tenant who had a long history of evictions. My property manager didn't do his home work and I didn't ask questions because I was too "hands-off". Shame on me because in the end, I was the one who had to deal (and pay) with the problem not the property manager.

The property was in Boston. This on it own, will tell you that the process will take much longer because this city is backed up for months. Yes, Mass is a tenant friendly state, but Boston is the ultimate pro-tenant city. A landlord just can't win - all he/she could do is to minimize the damage.

This 2nd eviction took more than a year and cost me more than $16,000 because the tenant had a pro-bono lawyer who stretched out the process by demanding a jury trial. It didn't matter that the lease had already ended and I wasn't renewing it. The tenant didn't want to leave (because he couldn't find another place to rent). He had all the tricks up his sleeve: called the health department to report non sense violations such as there's grease & dirt inside his unit, that the carpet in his unit needs cleaning. Called the building inspection to report that the smoke detectors needed replacement batteries, punched holes in the wall and needed me to fix it. The tenant also refused me entry into the unit so I couldn't even fix these things and I had to get a court order.

So, this has been said enough times, but really, the best thing a landlord can do is to screen, screen and screen some more. Always ask for a security deposit, no matter how little so that the tenant has something at stake. Hire an attorney if you've never done this before because you don't want to loose months of progress because of some technicality. And always offer "cash for keys" as your first option as this is much cheaper than paying your attorney. Good luck!

I am commenting on the posts above about complications involved in evicting a tenant, be it a single family home or a condo/apartment.
In all of the above conversations, the lawyers who have answered have not addressed the question asked initially (apparently 2013) and have been repeating the law book facts.
Is there any one out there to develop instruments/laws that can help genuinely the owner/landlord. The major pain for a landlord is that, he/she has to continue to make mortgage payments while the income from the rent is growing negative. And as mentioned, the landlords credit history as a borrower is tarnished and there is no way to circumvent this. The landlord can buy an insurance against loss of rentals though it has its own problems.

It is an irony that in a capitalist country, a landlord/home owner who fails to pay mortgage on time is on streets within 3 months while a tenant who does not pay for years enjoys a free and protected stay!!.

I have recently moved from midwest US to mass. All of us who have moved from other states agree that Mass in particular and NewEngalnd region in general does everything differently than rest of the country!!. Simple things such as a speeding ticket took 8 months to get a court date! and that the cop who showed up was not the cop who issued the ticket, instead was a collective representative, did not have speed gun calibration records neither was aware where the ticket was issued at (cross roads etc). Oh that is an example. If the court takes time to decide on a court date, the process of eviction gets longer simply because of the time between the hearings.

I have also been a tenant (A good one!) and I understand the difficulties of it. But the facts can never be changed, that is Landlord is Landlord and tenant is a tenant and ultimately tenant has to leave the premises. The policy makers should understand that in the business of renting living places, time and money are of prime importance and the policies/laws have to be balanced. Although I am a landlord at this point, I would still favor tenants yet, the time to decide the matters should have to be faster in the state of Massachusetts. In a state that levies more taxes comparatively has extremely less protection for the tax payers. Hiring more judges to to clear up the backup dates requires planning which is totally lacking in mass. Although it is not a platform to criticize, most events run by the govt are failures in Massachusetts.

I have a very good friend that is having some difficulty and I want to help her but I may not be able. She said she got a notice 2 weeks ago about eviction. I asked her if it was a "notice to quit" but she said she didn't know what that means. She said she called and spoke to the attorney for the complex she lives in and he said she would be "out" of the apt by Thursday of this week? is it possible that this can happen so fast? She lives in MA. Plus she's moving out soon. She will have the balance by the beginning of Sept. Isn't there a process? She's not looking to avoid paying she's just in a bind. Any insight would be very helpful. Thank you in advance.

Hi. Could someone give me an advise on how to go on if the lease ended but the tenant refuses to leave the property and pay rent.

Submitted Mon, 09/12/2016 - 10:42

Thanks for your question. When there is a written lease, there are few things that can happen when the lease term ends. Some of it depends on the language of the lease itself. Some leases contain provisions that automatically renew unless notice is given not to renew, or similarly require notice by either the landlord to refuse to renew, or a tenant in order to exercise a right to renew. I would have to take a look at your lease to let you know if anything like that applies to your situation.

In general, when a lease is over, either a tenant can transition to being a tenant at will or they simply become a holdover tenant. Unless there was improper notification, the lease says they are, or you accept "rent" then a tenant will not become a tenant at will.

If the tenant is simply a holdover tenant, you can proceed immediately with a summary process action to evict the tenant and claim money for use and occupancy. I would be happy to discuss more details and go over the process with you in a free consultation if you have any interest. You can contact me at 617-859-8966 or

Attry. David Owens
Grolman LLP

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